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Sunday, February 7, 2016


Today is the Super Bowl and I’m up way earlier than usual on a Sunday! I’ve got fresh coffee, beautiful morning light, and a smoker filled with pork. I’d say that bodes well for the day ahead! When the pork is ready I’m off to Ken’s for a day full of football, family, and of course, abusing his massive photo book library. In honor of the football season, I’m posting one of the few football photos I made this year. This is an outtake from a helmet shoot I did with Ken Jarecke for Hail Varsity Magazine. The Huskers were unveiling an alternative uniform against Northwestern, and had been struggling, so I wanted to make something a bit ominous. We lost. But oh well, today is about the Super Bowl!

I love the super bowl, regardless of who’s playing, but it’s always a little bittersweet because it’s the end of football season. Strangely, I feel more reminiscent about the year that’s past on the day of the super bowl and not on new year’s eve, when the year literally ends. It’s the end of the 2015 season, so it’s kind of like 2016 starts tonight at midnight. The ball drops when the game ends and we look forward to a great year ahead. 2016 came early for Nebraska fans this year, as the season ended on December 26 when the Huskers beat UCLA in Levi’s Stadium where the Super Bowl will take place today. I started the year sitting at a bar in London, watching my beloved Huskers from across the pond. I missed the season opener for only the second time in 10 years, and we lost the opener for the first time in my lifetime. Of course I feel guilty about it, but just like the players, I have to put it behind me and focus on the 2016 season, and not missing another opener.

For the record: I want Denver to win the Super Bowl and make the AFC West proud, something that I hope my Kansas City Chiefs can do next year. I’m also throwing my good karma behind Denver because some of my best friends and family are Denver fans, so I want them to be happy. For people who would say that I should hate Denver because they are the Chiefs rivals in the AFC West, I just don't have the energy for that and I've always been all about loving my own teams rather than hating on someone else's. I do like Carolina a lot too, just by the way they play, I love teams with good defense and a running attack/mobile QB. What self respecting Nebraskan doesn’t? I’ve been rooting for them in the NFC all season (along with the Seahawks for my bro-in-law). I also like Cam Newton and I hope he gets a chance to dab against Denver’s #1 ranked defense. I think we’re in for a good one and I’m not making a prediction. Happy Super Bowl!

Tips for photographers: Photography can be so strange sometimes. Why did I light this helmet like this? I was heavily influenced by the modern masters Marco Grob and Dan Winters around this time in 2015 (still am) and was doing a lot of portraits inspired by them. So I lit the helmet like I was lighting faces at the time, with hard light and flags. The Huskers were going to unveil this helmet against Northwestern, whose colors are purple, so I tried to put a purple-ish light on the front of the helmet to signify the upcoming game. The red light is for Nebraska, since there isn’t a lot of red on this helmet I decided to add some. Nebraska was off to one of its worst starts in history so I wanted to keep the overall image dark and ominous. The key light on the N of the helmet is a bare strobe, flagged to create the pattern you see and only highlight the N, while keeping the rest of the helmet black, as it was a matte black helmet. It was kind of fun playing around with this helmet and I’m thankful to Ken Jarecke and Hail Varsity Magazine for the opportunity. www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Friday, January 1, 2016


Happy New Year! January 1 is a special day for me because my wife and I were married in India on January 1, 2010. It’s been six years and I have to say that convincing her to marry me was the best decision I’ve ever made. She makes my day, every day. We spend a lot of time together and yet we can’t get enough of each other. We’re blessed. We had an amazing 2015 and 2016 will be just as awesome. 2015 was a year of travel and adventure and I accomplished a lifelong goal to visit all 50 US states with a roadtrip to Alaska. I also visited 5 different countries in 2015, and that is a personal high for one year but I look forward to breaking that number routinely in the coming years. 2016 has a tough act to follow, but the possibilities are endless when you face everyday with the love and appreciation of a lifelong partner. Thank you to everyone who has made this dream life possible, and most importantly, my amazing beautiful wife Nisha!

Tips for photographers: Looking at the nearly 60 blogs I wrote in 2015 it’s obvious that I’ve got my game face on when it comes to improving my technique and vision. I’m shooting constantly and fine tuning my skills. I can’t be satisfied and I won’t be. I’m coming close to mastery of the tools at my fingertips but I don’t think my vision will ever stop evolving and right now it’s still advancing quickly. I’m speeding out of control on the “road to seeing” to use Dan Winters’ phrase, but my foot is still on the gas pedal. I’m looking forward to the road ahead. Cheers to 2015 and making 2016 the best year yet! This picture? She’s facing a big window behind me at my studio. www.paulbellinger.com

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


I had a blast running around in the Beartooth Mountains with Elizabeth and Scott for their engagement session in East Rosebud! I’m always inspired when my clients have as much love and respect for nature as I do and want to head the mountains for any kind of photography session. But East Rosebud is a special treat because it is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I have traveled far and wide, and seen many of the most famously beautiful mountain ranges, and I can tell you that East Rosebud is as pretty as any of them. Thank you Elizabeth and Scott for a wonderful day in the mountains!

It’s the end of the year and it’s been a busy one at Paul Bellinger Photography. Thank you to everyone who helped us make 2015 amazing and we are looking forward to another outstanding year in 2016! If you’re getting married in 2016 and looking for a great Montana wedding photographer please visit www.paulbellinger.com for more information on booking. Our studio is located in downtown Billings Montana and we travel worldwide for weddings.

Tips for photographers: This picture was made with the Sony A7ii and Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 at 3.2, 1/320 and ISO 400. My standard tip for shooting in the mountains is to use a long lens, so this is an interesting case where I broke that rule. I usually shoot with a 70-200 lens most of the time when I’m around the mountains because I like the way the compression pulls the mountains in and makes them look gigantic. But when you get this far up East Rosebud creek you’re IN the mountains and a long lens will only let you show a single peak or two. In order to show the epic environment around us I had to opt for a wider lens. Notice however that I did not go crazy wide with a 14mm or anything like that, which would have made the mountains look much smaller and further away. There were some “standing in on a rock with nearly freezing white water around you” considerations to factor in as well, so it can be difficult to use the long lens when you don’t get to stand anywhere you want.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Everyone needs a good-looking headshot these days! With profile photos on several different social media accounts, your headshot may be seen by potentially thousands of people before they ever meet you in person. Your headshot makes an immediate impression so it’s important that your online presence is carefully curated to create the impression you want the world to see. The world has changed and boring headshots aren’t going to work anymore! You need a headshot that will stand out from the crowd of boring profile pics and amateur looking cell phone selfies. Lucky for you it’s easy to stand out for the right reasons if you hire a professional portrait photographer, especially if you find a photographer that understands the art of the headshot. When you find the right photographer make sure and give them some creative leeway, after all you’re hiring them for their taste and expertise, don’t hamstring them by requesting a boring “safe” look. Let them make something exceptional for you. At Paul Bellinger Photography we specialize in badass portraits and headshots that will help make your online presence pop! To book your sitting visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com.

Tips for photographers: This headshot lighting is inspired by Peter Hurley’s lighting technique. I initially set out to replicate the Peter Hurley look, but then quickly got shadowy. So I started with three lights on the face, to create a triangle catchlight pattern in the eyes similar to one that Peter Hurley uses. Essentially I created a right triangle out of light modifiers with a two or three foot opening in the middle to shoot through. Bringing the subject close to the lights creates something of a big ring-light pattern with quick falloff on the face and catchlights that can be very striking. But in my opinion there is too much fill in the shadows when the subject’s face is surrounded by big lights so I tweaked the ratios between the three lights until there was a clear shadow pattern that creates dimension on the face. Camera left I used a large 5 foot octabox in a vertical position perpendicular to the subject’s face as the key light, with the power set about 3 stops brighter than the other two lights, which will act as fill and catchlights. Underneath the camera a few feet below the subject’s face is a 4 foot softbox pointing straight up at the ceiling, creating a right angle with the octabox key light, forming two sides of a right angle triangle. The third light acts as the hypotenuse of the right triangle, connecting the other two on a 45 degree angle. You can see each of the modifiers in the catchlights if you look closely, although the key light is most prominent. To finish off the look I added a silver reflector behind the subject out of frame to the camera right that creates the edge light you see on the camera right side of the subject’s face.  See more headshots, including tips for photographers by clicking here.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


One of the blessings of being a portrait photographer is making portraits of the people you love the most. All portraits are special but portraits of the people you love are priceless. These are my wife’s parents, Ma and Baba, and for going on six years now, they’re my parents too. They recently made their second trip to the US for Thanksgiving and they spent over a week in Billings Montana with us. I am very thankful that I got to spend about three hours with them in the studio and we made some beautiful portraits that my wife and her family and I will forever cherish. Ma and Baba are back in Hazaribagh India now, safe and sound. Thank you to everyone who made them feel welcome during their time here.

Everyone needs a professional headshot as part of their online presence these days! Your various online profile photos will be viewed thousands of times more than your actual face will be! If you’re in business, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than putting your best face forward and you only get that from a professional portrait photographer. Visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com to book a headshot or portrait in Billings Montana.

Tips for photographers: Do you recognize this lighting technique? It’s the same as the last post. I mentioned that I use this lighting technique often because it’s so easy to set up and everyone always loves this look (especially women). I mentioned to Ma that these would be her favorites when we were shooting this look and sure enough, when it came time to pick her absolute favorite image from her sitting, this was her favorite. Read the last post here.

Monday, November 16, 2015


I promised on Instagram that I would show the color version of this photo on the blog so everyone can see Arley’s stunning blue eyes. She is really a Montana treasure, and such a joy to be around and work with. I can’t wait to work with her again soon on a fashion shoot that we are planning now. Thank you to Sydney Ross for hair, makeup and styling, as always, you are the best. We’re definitely trying to raise the bar for fashion photography in Montana. It’s not just flannel and cowboy boots in a field of grass. We’re inspired by the amazing fashion photography that is happening around the world right now, and we want to show that we can make high quality work in Billings Montana, or anywhere else in the world. Check back to for updates in early 2016! www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tips for photographers: This is one of my favorite window light setups. It’s a go to lighting technique to start the day with because it’s easy, starting with natural light always get’s your model relaxed, and this soft lighting is great for beauty shots, which you want to get out of the way right when the model comes out of hair and makeup. Arley is standing just in front of a large window, with a piece of white diffusion cloth over it. I am standing a few feet in front of her, and Sydney is holding a white styrofoam reflector in between Arley and I that you can clearly see in the catchlight in the bottom of her eye. Behind me is a pair of 4x8 foot white reflectors creating a beautiful soft fill light that is flattering for all skin types. I made this picture with the Sony A7 and Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 at f/2.8.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Here’s another great example of a badass headshot that we’ve made recently! The dramatic lighting and bright eyes make for a very striking image that stands out from the crowd of boring headshots in Billings Montana. It may be a little too dramatic for some industries, but it’s great for actors, models, artists and anyone looking for an eye-catching edgy editorial portrait. It would also make a great professional portrait for anyone wanting to convey power with their headshots, such as lawyers, business managers and CEO’s. But the main point is that at Paul Bellinger Photography we can make a headshot or portrait that is unique just for you, so you will always stand out. Please get in touch with us if you haven’t updated your professional business portraits or corporate headshot in Billings Montana recently, we’d love to make something just for you. www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tips for photographers: We always make cool portraits and headshots whenever my friend and talented photographer Zak Jokela comes to town. We love to hang out in the studio and test different lighting setups. We never test out new lighting techniques on paying customers, so we have to do a lot of testing with models, friends, assistants, etc. to work out a new lighting technique before using it on clients.

This portrait was inspired by Martin Schoeller and the basics of the lighting setup are similar to his. The key light is a pair of 8ft strip boxes just a few feet in front of the subject and the camera is actually right in between the two strip boxes, which are parallel to each other a little more than shoulder distance apart, pointed directly at the subject. So you shoot this portrait standing in between a pair of strip boxes. Schoeller gets his lights very close to his subjects’ faces, and surrounds them in black so that the light falloff is deep and natural. We took it a step further by placing a pair of black flags in-between the strip boxes and Zak’s face to deepen the shadows on his cheeks and ears. It became our goal to silhouette the ears, because I guess we don’t like ears to be lit anymore (see my previous post here for more on that). One tradeoff for using these flags was that they cut into the strip boxes in the catchlights, making for narrower catchlights that what Schoeller usually achieves. Schoeller shoots very close to his subjects with a large format film camera, so the depth of field is usually shallow. We replicated that shallow depth of field by using the Sony-Zeiss 55mm at f/2.5 very close, nearly at minimum focal distance. The background is just a 4x8ft white reflector a few feet behind the subject. The falloff is so fast that you can make the background go black pretty easily too, but we liked having the gray background to create separation from Zak’s silhouette.

Monday, October 26, 2015


I love this portrait of Alysse and Dan on their wedding day in Bozeman Montana! A beautiful portrait is so timeless, and so powerful! Sadly, portraiture is a lost art in todays cell phone photo saturated world. So we decided to bring a portrait studio to a few weddings this summer and make some elegant portraits of our couples and their guests all dressed up and looking great. This portrait of Alysse and Dan is one of my favorites. Their wedding was at the Big Yellow Barn, so we set up the studio in one of the old stables! Adding our studio lighting with such a cool location really made for a unique set of portraits. Thank you to Alysse and Dan for an awesome wedding day and all of their family and friends for posing for us! Thanks also to Zak Jokela for assisting and second shooting this wedding with me!

The idea of a wedding day portrait studio is to make timeless portraits of the bride and groom, and their guests, looking their best, with beautiful lighting and posing from a skilled portrait photographer. It’s an elegant alternative to the wedding day photo booth. With the photo booth the concept is to look silly for snapshots (similar to cell phone photography), while our portraits are crafted for style, sophistication and a quality suitable for making printed photographs. It’s a unique experience for most guests because for most of them it will be one of the very few times they ever step into a serious portrait studio. After the wedding these portraits make great gifts for guests as well. Stay tuned to the blog for more wedding day portraits coming soon and get in touch with us at www.paulbellinger.com if you’re interested in having a portrait studio at your wedding reception.

Tips for photographers: The inspiration for setting up a nice portrait studio on location at an event came from the Vanity Fair Oscar Party portraits by Mark Seliger. I look forward to the portraits he does each year, and if you follow him on instagram you can find some behind the scenes photos and videos of the set and lighting that he uses. In this case we were limited by the size of the stable we were shooting in. We set up a large, 6-foot silver bounce umbrella in the stable next door camera left and covered it with a piece of white diffusion cloth so that it created a large soft light as our key light. The key light was just a foot or two above head height, as high as we could get it in the stable. For a fill light we used a 4-foot white bounce umbrella behind the camera to the left also above head height. By placing this light further away it creates an even fill, with little falloff compared to the key light that is closer to the subject. We also had two 4x8 foot white styrofoam reflectors out frame camera right for fill on the shadow side of the subjects. These 4x8 foot reflectors also prevented a color cast from the key light bouncing off the other side of the wooden stable.  It’s fun shooting these portraits because they have to go somewhat quickly, but yet still require thoughtful posing, so you’re working really hard and fast and for me that’s exciting.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Wow, there’s probably no prettier combination than a stunning bride in the mountains! Add in a gorgeous dress and the perfect bouquet and it’s a masterpiece. I’m very lucky to live in beautiful Montana, it seems like everything is prettier here! Of course I’m spoiled to also be surrounded by great people, Montanans and otherwise, that give me the opportunity to photograph them in epic locations. McKenzie and Tyrel’s Beartooth wedding at Emerald Lake was about as epic as you can get. They tied the knot with an intimate wedding on the dock surrounded by their closest family and Montana’s tallest mountains. This is just a sneak peek of the beautiful bride and her bouquet from Katie at Mac’s Floral, who totally outdid herself I must say. Stay tuned for more to come from this Beartooth Mountain wedding. For more information about my wedding photography please visit the Montana wedding photography website by clicking here.

I am lucky to be one of Montana’s most sought after wedding photographers and I am indebted to my amazing clients for trusting me to make the wedding artwork that will become one of their most cherished family heirlooms. The pictures that I make at weddings will be looked at for generations, perhaps forever, and that gives me a great responsibility as a wedding photographer that I take very seriously. In return I give my everything for each and every wedding. I will go anywhere and do anything to make the artwork of your dreams. How do you dream of being photographed? www.paulbellinger.com

Monday, October 19, 2015


I’m very happy to show these three portraits from a new series of fine art portraits. Portraiture is something of a lost art in Billings Montana, being a small city in a remote part of the country, our portraits usually consist of a person standing in a field, or on a gravel road somewhere in bright sunlight, smiling at the camera. But elsewhere in the world portraiture is thriving as an art that is far more complex and nuanced. Just look at any magazine rack and you’ll see diversely crafted portraits everywhere. Why? Because portraits are powerful, we make an immediate connection when we see a portrait. The goal of this portrait series is to show off the power of the portrait, to show that we can make fine art portraits in Billings Montana that are made with the same techniques that master portrait photographers are using around the world, and in doing so we can show Billings that we don’t have to settle for anything less. To schedule a portrait sitting please visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com. Read on to learn about the inspiration and hard work that went into making these portraits.

Tips for photographers: Well I imagine this will become a long-winded story because it seems like I’ve been thinking about these photos for months now, and it took five sessions to get comfortable with the lighting setup and really start making portraits. It all started with Gregory Heisler’s book “50 portraits,” which I’ve been reading for almost a year every time I visit my friend and mentor Ken Jarecke, who always let’s me browse his library (as long as I wash my hands first). A couple of months ago I read about a portrait where Heisler was praising the use of a ring light to create a “shadowless” fill light (p. 86). I made a mental note of it, but didn’t rush out and buy a ring light or anything like that. Perhaps a month later I saw a portrait of Kareem Abdul Jabar by Dan Winters on twitter and it was so striking to me that I started an all out binge on everything Dan Winters I could get my hands on (look at my twitter feed @paulbellinger to find a retweet of the Kareem portrait). Of course Ken had Winters’ book “Road to Seeing,” so I spent a few hours with it before buying my own copy soon after. I noticed that for a lot of my favorite portraits, Winters often used a ring light too. There is a strobist.com post about Winters that has a behind the scenes video of Dan shooting Jack Nicklaus and even has quotes from Dan saying that he prefers to use the ring light mostly for the catch light it creates, and less for fill when possible (click here to view). I set about trying to replicate a Dan Winters look, specifically to achieve a similar lighting effect as seen in his portraits of Tom Hanks and Benedict Cumberbatch.